An Bord Pleanála loses 25% more judicial reviews of planning decisions in 2021

An Bord Pleanála loses 25% more judicial reviews of planning decisions in 2021

The planning body’s legal costs dropped slightly in 2021 to €7.7m. File picture: Gareth Chaney / Collins Photos

The number of judicial reviews of planning decisions lost by An Bord Pleanála increased by 25% in 2021, according to new figures.

The planning authority was subject to 95 new judicial reviews in 2021, up 12 from the previous record figure of 83 in 2020.

The figures, released to Sinn Féin housing spokesperson Eoin O Broin, show that the increase in JRs – a form of legal challenge which tests the correctness in law of decisions made by State bodies - was largely driven by objections to strategic housing developments (SHDs).

Meanwhile, the planning body’s legal costs dropped slightly in 2021 to €7.7m, but remain more than double the 2019 figures, before the rash of objections to SHDs began in earnest. Mr O Broin described the rise in legal costs as “dramatic”.

“It appears that there is little oversight of the quality and legal robustness of Bord decisions on highly controversial SHD decisions,” he said. Some 47 challenges were made to SHDs last year, an increase of 47% on the 32 lodged in 2020.

The new statistics show that challenges to An Bord Pleanála decisions have mushroomed over the past decade. Just 17 legal objections were lodged in the High Court against ABP in 2012. While that figure rose steadily over the 10 years, it had held reasonably steady at roughly the 50 mark for four years up until 2020.

Earlier this week, the Irish Examiner revealed that of the 35 judicial review challenges to SHDs which have been decided since the scheme’s inception in 2017, the State has lost 32 of them.

Those large-scale housing developments, which are set to be discontinued later this year, were introduced as part of the now defunct housing policy Rebuilding Ireland with a view to kickstarting housing construction by allowing developers to bypass the local authority planning process.

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